In case you haven’t figured it out, my obsession with fitness is about living longer. Or, rather, living perfectly healthy to the day you croak. I don’t really care about the exact number of years. I am a bible believer, so I think I am going to a better place, so leaving here isn’t terrifying. What is terrifying, is the idea of spending my last few years unable to care for myself or know that I can’t care for myself. I am around older people all the time, and I can clearly see the last few years can vary WILDLY. If you are 79, you could be in a wheel chair or showing off in physical therapy after your knee replacement. (Both examples of what I’ve seen just this week).
Anyway, Yahoo got me, as they always do, with a link to this article encapsulating some findings of things that will extend your life. It isn’t often that I feel the need to blog after reading “7 ways to…” or “10 things that…” but it was one paragraph that got me:
Low expectations boost happiness. When researchers monitored the brain activity of volunteers as they played a game, they found the degree of happiness players experienced when they won depended on their expectations: the lower the expectations, the happier they were about winning. In the real world, scientists say, people with low expectations are likely to derive more pleasure from receiving gifts or going on vacation. “Happiness depends not on how well things are going,” says neuroscientist Robb Rutledge, “but whether things are going better or worse than expected.”
This plays into one of my strongest beliefs; that how happy we are depends on our expectations. You’ve seen the YouTube videos of the kids opening presents and saying “Is that it?”. It’s true. Nothing you get will make you happy if it doesn’t match or exceed your expectations. conversely, very little in real life can make you as miserable as anticipating negative events.
I believe one of the eastern religions teach something like this, they tell their followers to want nothing, that the end of all desires is the path to happiness. I don’t agree with that, but keeping your expectations in line with reality is definitely preferable to being wildly optimistic or pessimistic.
It has been my experience that having realistic expectations is a function of age. I don’t think I was capable of it when I was younger. I have definitely mellowed with age. I don’t get wildly excited, and I don’t get as low either.
What do you think? Is it “all in our heads”? Are we as happy as we make up our minds to be? Or are we controlled by external factors-are we “made happy” by good things happening and made miserable by the bad? Can we consciously control our happiness by changing our expectations? Or are there other factors I’m leaving out? Let me know.